Tag Archives: Bob Jones University

The Failure of Third Generation Leaders: They Tend to Lack the Convictions and Spiritual Fortitude of Their Fore-fathers (Judges 1; Judges 2)

Click on this link for translations of today’s devotion.

Scripture reading: Judges 1-2

The Book of Judges began with a statement indicating a leadership void that followed Joshua’s death. We read, “Now after the death of Joshua it came to pass, that the children of Israel asked the Lord, saying, Who shall go up for us against the Canaanites first, to fight against them?” (Judges 1:1)

Though Israel possessed the land, they still faced enemies in their midst. So the LORD answered their inquiry, not with the name of a man, but with that of a tribe: “And the Lord said, Judah shall go up: behold, I have delivered the land into his [the tribe of Judah’s] hand” (1:2).

The Unity of the Tribes of Judah and Simeon (Judges 1:1-20)

Lacking the leadership of a man like Joshua, the LORD chose the men of Judah to be the first to wage battle in the post-Joshua era. Why Judah? Judah had the largest population of the twelve tribes and was the most powerful among them. Judah, the patriarch Jacob’s fourth-born son, had been blessed by his father (Genesis 49:8-12). His lineage bore the noble character from whom a line of kings would emerge, beginning with David and concluding with the LORD Jesus Christ, the lion of Judah (Matthew 1:1-3).

Judah accepted the challenge. Because the tribe of Simeon lived in their midst, Judah said to them, “Come up with me into my lot, that we may fight against the Canaanites; and I likewise will go with thee into thy lot.” (1:3). The people of Simeon accepted Judah’s invitation, for their land was encircled by Judah’s territory (Joshua 19:1).

Amid victories, a repetition of failures emerged in Judges that haunted the people as a nation for generations. The tribes of Judah and Simeon fought against the Canaanites and the Perizzites, and God blessed them with victories over their enemies (Judges 1:2-20), but regrettably, they fell short of the LORD’s will. The LORD did not fail Judah; however, the tribe did not trust their God and “could not drive out the inhabitants of the valley, because they had chariots of iron” (1:19).

The Cowardice of the Other Tribes (Judges 1:21-36)

A pattern of failures to obey the command of the LORD and drive out Israel’s enemies continued throughout Judges 1. For example, the tribe of Benjamin failed (1:21), as did Manasseh (1:27-28). Also, Ephraim did not “drive out the Canaanites that dwelt in Gezer” (1:29). Zebulun failed to “drive out the inhabitants of Kitron” (1:30). Asher did not drive out the inhabitants of cities in their land (1:32). Naphtali failed (1:33), and “the Amorites forced the children [tribe] of Dan into the mountain” (1:34).

Judges 2 – A Third-Generation Crisis in Leadership

An Ominous Announcement of the Angel of the LORD (Judges 2:1-5)

Judges 2 began with an ominous declaration from “an angel of the LORD” (whom I believe was a pre-incarnate appearance of Jesus Christ). Israel’s failure to drive the idol-worshiping nations out of Canaan breached their covenant with the LORD. He reminded them of His promise: “I will never break my covenant with you” (2:1). The people, however, had failed to drive the inhabitants out of the land and destroy their altars (2:2).

God warned, “I will not drive them out from before you; but they shall be as thorns in your sides, and their gods shall be a snare unto you” (2:3). When the people heard what would befall them because of their sins, they “sacrificed there unto the LORD” (2:5). Nevertheless, the consequences of their sinful failures followed them.

The State of Israel During the Rule of the Judges (Judges 2:6-23)

Notice that the narrative in Judges 2 turns briefly to a reflection on the death of Joshua (2:6-10) and his influence on his generation and the one that followed. We read, “The people served the Lord all the days of Joshua, and all the days of the elders that outlived Joshua, who had seen all the great works of the Lord, that he did for Israel” (2:7). When that generation passed, a third generation arose, and “did evil in the sight of the Lord, and served Baalim” (2:11). That generation “forsook the Lord God of their fathers…and followed other gods…and provoked the Lord to anger. 13And they forsook the Lord, and served Baal and Ashtaroth” (2:12-13).

Yet, the LORD did not altogether forsake Israel. On the contrary, he chose judges in Israel to call the people to return to the LORD, His Law, and Commandments (2:16). He would bless the judge of His people and deliver them “out of the hand of their enemies all the days of the judge” (2:18). Nevertheless, “when the judge was dead, [the people] returned, and corrupted themselves more than their fathers…[and] ceased not from their own doings, nor from their stubborn way” (2:19).

Closing thoughts:

On a personal note, I have witnessed the failings of transitional leadership throughout my years of ministry. A nation, organization, corporation, school, and church are never more vulnerable than in a time of leadership change. Judges 2 proved that the nation of Israel was no exception.

Why are third-generation organizations and ministries so vulnerable?

The reason can be summed up in an old adage: “Familiarity breeds contempt.” Israel’s third generation in the land had not experienced the sacrifices or the victories of the generations before them. They had grown comfortable and familiar with the heathen in their midst. Invariably, their parent’s failure to drive the wicked out of the land became a fatal attraction, and the third generations’ contempt for the ways, law, and commandments of the LORD invited God’s judgment (2:20-23).

Tragically, as I write today’s devotion, I recall several churches, Christian camps, Bible colleges, and organizations that have faltered and are failing to thrive under third-generation leaders.

Is your church or organization facing a third-generation transition? If so, be on guard! Leaders who dismiss the principles and precepts of their predecessors will inevitably lead others to their demise.

Questions to consider:

1) Why did Judah invite the tribe of Simeon to join them in the war against the Canaanites? (Judges 1:4)

2) What great city fell to Judah and was destroyed by fire? (Judges 1:8)

3) What connection did the Kenites have with Israel? (Judges 1:16)

4) Who failed to drive the Jebusites out of Jerusalem? (Judges 1:21)

5) In what had Israel failed? (Judges 2:1-2)

6) What generation failed to know the LORD? (Judges 2:7-10)

Copyright © 2023 – Travis D. Smith

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“Moral Indignation: What Stirs You to Anger?” (Genesis 34)


The following briefly highlights a message I preached at Hillsdale on Sunday, April 23, 2023. I am attaching a link to Hillsdale’s Sermon Audio page, which records the entire sermon. I also hope to provide a video of the message within the next day.

The message’s title is “Moral Indignation: What Stirs You to Anger?” 

The topic was “A Tragic Story of Ambivalence, Moral Outrage, and Revenge.” The text for the sermon was Genesis 33-35:1. This sermon is taken from a chronological study of the Bible and is part of a two-year series I have titled “Logos: A Journey of Faith, Hope, and Love.”

I’m sharing here a brief summary for you to have an introduction and provide a student outline.

01 – Moral Indignation- What Stirs You to Anger – Sunday, April 23, 2023 student half

I observed in Jacob’s life a pattern of sin and spiritual impotence that is characteristic of many fathers, pastors, and institutional leaders of our day. Like Jacob, men who are supposed to be spiritual leaders have abdicated their spiritual authority and leadership.

Pastors, teachers, college boards, and college and university presidents have endangered their ministries by resigning their authority to youth and catering to their whims. They have deferred leadership to immature, inexperienced, foolish, idealistic men and women whose ideas and opinions are unproved and untested by time.

Spiritual leaders have compromised their moral authority and preferred peace over honor and obedience to God’s Word. The tragedy of their compromise has invited God’s chastening, and we are observing the bitter fruit of their unfaithfulness. All is lost if our institutions do not return to the unapologetic, bold declaration of God’s Word.

With the heart of a shepherd,

Travis D. Smith
Senior Pastor
Hillsdale Baptist Church, Tampa, FL

Copyright © 2023 – Travis D. Smith

* You can subscribe to the Heart of a Shepherd daily devotionals and have them sent directly to your email address. Please enter your email address in the box to the right (if using a computer) or at the bottom (if using a cell phone). You may also email your request to HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com

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Bob Jones University: A Reflection from the “Back Pew” and Lessons Learned from the Front Pew

From the author:

This article is a brief departure from my daily devotional commentaries; however, it is a necessary one to sound a warning knell to some of my readers. I am not publishing this piece to stir up controversy or heap sorrow upon sorrow. Yet, I dare not be silent when my beloved alma mater has come to what may be the final crossroads that I have long warned was inevitable.

Recent and shameful events at Bob Jones University (BJU), my alma mater, have brought to mind an article I penned in June 2015 on the eve of the closure of Clearwater Christian College (CCC). Therefore, I am republishing a brief revision of that article, not to heap sorrow upon the alumni of CCC but to serve as a reminder to Bob Jones University and other fundamental Bible colleges:  

Forget your fundamental legacy, and reject your base, and you guarantee your demise.

(The following was penned in June 2015 and has been edited for this post.)

Although I am not an alumnus of Clearwater Christian College (CCC), my heart was heavy on June 6, 2015, after it was announced that the college would close its doors at the end of that month. CCC’s closing followed in the wake of several former conservative fundamental Christian institutions [Pillsbury Baptist Bible College, Northland University, Tennessee Temple University – to name a few examples].  I have a distant knowledge of the changes in administration and philosophy that drove those institutions to extinction; however, as a pastor in Tampa Bay for 38 years, I had the sorrow of watching the demise of Clearwater Christian College from the proverbial “front pew.”

CCC was a small, nondenominational liberal arts Bible College founded by Dr. Arthur Steele (1920-2011), who was a successful businessman, an officer in the Corps of Engineers in World War II, a seminary graduate, professor, and college president before he had a vision for a fundamental Bible college on the West Coast of Florida. In his mid-70s, Dr. Steele set his heart on finding a man who would assume the helm of his small college of 200 students and steer her into a new era while maintaining the college’s unique nondenominational, biblically fundamental stripe.

Dr. Steele found his successor in Washington, DC [Dr. George Youstra and his wife Pat were part of the Reagan administration from 1981-1987].  Dr. Youstra (a graduate of Bob Jones University and former faculty and administrator at BJU) resigned as the special assistant to the secretary of education on January 2, 1987, and assumed the presidency of CCC. Under Dr. Youstra’s leadership, the college enjoyed 15 years of consecutive growth. At its peak, the student body numbered nearly 700, necessitating renovations to existing buildings and the construction of new dorms and classrooms.

Like his predecessor, Dr. Youstra exhibited a kind, gracious, self-sacrificing spirit reflected in the administration, faculty, and student body. Under his leadership, CCC became a prominent educational Christian institution and earned respect and admiration of fundamental pastors, churches, and families [the church I pastor had as many as 17 students enrolled at one point during Dr. Youstra’s tenure. In addition, Hillsdale enjoyed the ministries of several faculty and students over the years].

CCC reflected a fundamental biblical worldview in its philosophy and practice.  Serving as a board member for a few years, I witnessed firsthand Dr. Youstra’s leadership and his ready response to the pastors’ concerns. In the summer of 2002, he transitioned to president emeritus and was a part-time professor of graduate studies while his wife Pat continued as a professor until her retirement.

Lessons learned: “From the front pew,” it became my sorrow to observe CCC’s decline.

As CCC strayed from its legacy as a fundamental Bible institution, it did so at the sacrifice of the support and following of pastors and churches. Many would cite factors that contributed to the doors of the college closing. Some will mention economics, a dwindling number of conservative churches, low student enrollment, and competition from other Bible colleges. Although all of the above undoubtedly contributed to CCC’s demise, I suggest the death knell of the institution was its leadership steering the college from its founder’s purpose, philosophy, and vision.

Rather than an institution dedicated to educating, challenging, and equipping young people to be “soldiers of Christ,” CCC evolved to a pragmatic philosophy of accommodation. Void of institutional integrity, the college leadership strayed from its founding principles, lowered its standards, and adopted and adapted CCM music in its chapels and athletic events.

I continue to sorrow eight years later because the beautiful campus by the Bay is no longer there.

A Current Application to Bob Jones University

I have observed “from the back pew,” a repetition of the same failures at Bob Jones University that initiated the demise of CCC and other Bible fundamental colleges. Unfortunately, led by the current president of the university and his administrators, the same compromised ideologies (and many of the same personalities) that drove those institutions to their demise are perpetuating the same at BJU. They have rejected the university’s fundamental Bible legacy and voided the disciplines that shaped and instilled Christian character in generations of graduates.

A Message from the “Back Pew”

I speak for scores of conservative, Bible-fundamental pastors and thousands of graduates who long to see BJU survive and thrive. We long to see the fire of an unapologetic passion for Truth thundering from the pulpit rather than the catering to carnality that has characterized the past two decades. We long to see BJU’s board demonstrate integrity, confess that the school has strayed from its separatist legacy, and return the university to its founding principles. But, finally, we cannot support the school if its leadership continues to reject and is ashamed of BJU’s unapologetic, Bible-fundamental heritage as a separatist institution. Warning:

Forget your fundamental legacy, and reject your base, and you guarantee your demise.

With the heavy heart of a shepherd,

Travis D. Smith
Senior Pastor
Alumnus of Bob Jones University

Copyright © 2023 – Travis D. Smith

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Women in the Church, and God’s Blueprint for Church Leadership (1 Timothy 2-3)

Click on this link for translations of today’s devotional.

Scripture reading – 1 Timothy 3

1 Timothy 3 addresses two ministering offices of the church. The office of the bishop defines the function and qualifications of a pastor as overseer of a local congregation of believers (3:1-7). The second church office is that of the deacons (meaning servant; 3:8-13).). Notice the bishop\pastor and deacons’ offices were defined by personal, spiritual, and family qualifications (3:1-13). The focus of this devotion will be the office of the bishop\pastor; however, I will first set the context for our study by examining the role of women in the church.

The Women of the Congregation (2:9-15)

While there are many controversies challenging the 21st century church, I suggest the role of the sexes, and leadership is the most hotly debated. Beginning with the conviction believers accept the authority of the Scriptures in faith and practice, the teachings regarding the role of women becomes simple and straightforward.

After writing regarding the importance of prayer (2:8), Paul addressed the adorning and decorum of women in public worship. As he commanded men to “pray every where, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting” (2:8), the apostle commanded women to be adorned “in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with broided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array; 10But (which becometh women professing godliness) with good works” (2:9-10).

Dress Matters: A Principle for Women’s Dress and Decorum (2:9-10)

Contrary to the “come as you are” invitation of many churches, Paul taught believers to dress in a manner that befits God’s holiness (2:9a). With reverence and restraint, women are to dress in a manner that would not distract from public worship (2:9b). Modeling godly character, a woman’s works (her outward deeds) are to be a reflection of her dedication to the Lord (2:10).

The Attitude and Demeanor of Women in the Church (2:11-12)

Then, Paul’s attention turned to the attitude and demeanor of women in public worship. The apostle wrote: “Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection” (2:11).

The church is graced with women who are wonderful examples of spiritual piety and Biblical knowledge. Nevertheless, in public worship women are to be learners, and not teachers. Indeed, the role of women in the church is one of subjection (Paul had written the same to believers in Corinth, stating: “It is a shame for women to speak in the church,” 1 Corinthians 14:35). Paul taught the same principle in his letter to Timothy, stating, “I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence” (2:12).

Two Spiritual Foundations for Paul’s Instructions Regarding the Role of Women (2:13-15)

The apostle Paul needed no justification for the limits he placed on the role of women in the church; nevertheless, he identified two principles for his instructions (2:13-14). The first, God’s creative order: “For Adam was first formed, then Eve” (2:13; 1 Corinthians 11:8-9). The second principle arose from the historical fact concerning the fall of the human race (2:14). Adam and Eve disobeyed the Lord’s commands; however, it was the woman, not the man who was “deceived” and transgressed (2:14; Genesis 3:1-6a). Adam sinned of his own volition, and disobeyed God. Eve, however, usurped her husband’s authority, and was deceived by the serpent (2:14).

Having clearly, and unequivocally defined the role of women in the church (2:9-15), Paul then set in order the leadership offices of the church (1 Timothy 3). For today’s study, the focus with be the office of the bishop\pastor (3:1-7).

1 Timothy 3 – The Bishop\Pastor

The Person and Office of the Pastor (3:1)

Accepting the Scripture’s authority in both faith and practice, the Bible is clear: The office of bishop, meaning overseer, is to be occupied by a man. Of those who aspire to the calling of pastor, it is “a good work” (3:1). The word “desire” indicates a strong urgency to pastor and oversee the work of the ministry. Such a calling is a “good,” and honorable work. Yet, desiring the office and work of the bishop is not enough; for a man must also be qualified to hold such a high calling.

The Qualifications of the Pastor (3:2-7)

I might suggest various outlines for the qualifications of the pastor, but I will limit myself to four categories. The first is a personal qualification: “2A bishop then must be blameless (3:2a). That is not implying perfection (for I can ascertain no man would qualify). “Blameless” indicates the necessity of the pastor’s personal life passing scrutiny. The pastor’s moral character must be above reproach, and must not be chargeable with a moral offense (adultery, fornication, or any other reprehensible conduct disqualifies a man from the pastorate).

The second qualification of the pastor concerns his marriage and relationship with his wife (if married). He is to be “the husband of one wife” (3:2b), in thought and deed (or as many have observed, he must be “a one-woman kind of man”). Other than death, which ends the covenant of marriage in the sight of God and man, a pastor is to be devoted to one-woman. A moral failure or divorce disqualifies a man from the pastorate.

Thirdly, notice the pastor’s character is an essential qualification, and he is to be “vigilant (watchful), sober (disciplined), of good behaviour (honest; well-behaved), given to hospitality, apt (qualified) to teach; 3Not given to wine (not a drinker), no striker (violent or combative), not greedy of filthy lucre (lover of money); but patient (gracious), not a brawler (contentious), not covetous (lover of possessions) (3:2-3).

The fourth essential for the pastor is he is to demonstrate godly leadership in his home (3:4-5). He is to be “one that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity” (3:4). Notice the essential nature of a pastor’s household leadership is stressed as the background for the following proposition: “5For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?” (3:5)

To be spiritually qualified for overseeing the body of Christ, a pastor must not be a “novice, lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the condemnation of the devil” (3:6). Regarding his public testimony, “he must have a good report of them which are without [secular society]; lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil” (3:7).

Closing thoughts – With the Scriptures as my authority, I state unequivocally: Women are not to usurp men in teaching or preaching the Scriptures. Women have their place and role in teaching women (Titus 2:3-5); however, they should never exercise authority over men and aspire to teach or preach the Scriptures. To do so is a violates the clear teachings of Scripture.

A Personal Observation: Tragically, many spiritual leaders have accommodated the sins of their children and violated Paul’s instructions (3:5). From my vantage, it seems every failed ministry (Bible-preaching church, Bible college, and Christian institution) has one thing in common:

Spiritual leaders have compromised the spiritual precepts of their institutions, and invited God’s judgment upon those ministries.

* You can become a regular subscriber of the Heart of a Shepherd daily devotionals, and have them sent directly to your email address. Please enter your email address in the box to the right (if using a computer) or at the bottom (if using a cell phone).

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

Heart of A Shepherd Inc is recognized by the Internal Revenue Service as a 501c3, and is a public charitable organization. Mailing address: Heart of A Shepherd Inc, 6201 Ehrlich Rd., Tampa, FL 33625. You can email HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com for more information on this daily devotional ministry.

A Warning Knell: Pseudo-Fundamentalists Are Systematically Destroying the Legacy of Biblical Fundamentalism

Heart of A Shepherd followers,

The following is an article I first published on January 11, 2022. I generally limit posts to daily devotionals on my http://www.HeartofAShepherd.com website. There are, however, some things I come across in my readings that give me pause to think and share. So, in light of recent discussions at my alma mater, I am writing this timely article. 

Bob Jones University Fashion Show – December 2021

I am currently reading a book authored by a man I do not know and, judging from his references, would probably not follow. Nevertheless, Owen Strachan’s recently published book, Christianity and Wokeness, has awakened in me a sensitivity to a frightening reality:

We are witnessing a systematic dismantling of our American culture and the broad spectrum of churches in the United States, including an erosion of what has been known for more than a century as historic Bible fundamentalism.

Owen Strachan makes the following observation in his book:

“Though fundamentalists and some conservative evangelicals earned a reputation as pugnacious, with the image of the ‘Fightin’ Fundamentalist’ enduring in our time, in actual historical fact, the fundamentalists didn’t fight nearly enough. They lost, and lost, and lost some more. They lost their churches, they lost their seminaries, they lost their missions agencies, they lost their parachurch organizations, and they kept on losing until there was very nearly nothing else left to lose.”1

If my Bible-fundamentalist peers are honest, we have observed the consequences of compromise for the past two decades when leadership fails to maintain a separatist position in both personal and ecclesiastical fellowship.

Bob Jones University Fashion Design hosted by Fashion Design Seniors, December 2021

Failing to maintain a distinct doctrine of separation has led to a precipitous loss of fundamental churches, schools (Tennessee Temple University, Pillsbury Baptist College, Northland Baptist College, Clearwater Christian College), seminaries (Calvary Seminary), and missions agencies.

Unless board members of fundamental churches, schools, universities, mission board agencies, and parachurch organizations (camps) repent for their compromises and purge the leadership leading their institutions, the losses will continue until we have “nearly nothing else left to lose.”2

With the heart of a shepherd,

Travis D. Smith

1 Owen Strachan, Christianity and Wokeness (Washington, D.C.: Salem Books, 2021), 55.
2 Ibid.

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

The Coronavirus of Ecumenical Compromise: Are You Infected?

Proverbs 22:28“Remove not the ancient landmark, which thy fathers have set.”

* The following article was published nearly a year ago, and I believe a discerning reader will find it a timely exhortation. In the words of the founder of Bob Jones University: “Do right till the stars fall.”

Twentieth century philosopher George Santayana observed, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”  I fear that truth has befallen many churches, Bible colleges, and institutions in recent years.

Beloved leader and mentor of BJU “Preacher Boys”

I am old enough to remember the reminisces and exhortations of Dr. Gilbert Stenholm, Dr. Richard Rupp, and Dr. Bob Jones Jr.  Those men and many others of their generation (Drs. Bob Jones Sr., Monroe Parker, Wayne Van Gelderen, Sr., Ed Nelson…) had fought ecumenical battles against progressives of their day and warned Bob Jones University “Preacher Boys Classes” in the 1970’s that the day would come when faithful Bible-believing pastors of my generation would have to take our stand.

I have never forgotten the passion of those men when they warned us that a failure to identify men who denied the fundamental doctrines of the Christian faith and separate from those who fellowshipped with them would inevitably prove disastrous to our ministries (Romans 16:17).

In those days an oft-cited example of the tragedy of compromise was Evangelist Dr. Billy Graham who practiced, if not spearheaded, evangelical pragmatism by openly embracing various stripes of “Christianity,” including Roman Catholicism and Russian Orthodoxy. Graham’s compromises and the effects of pursuing a lifetime of theological inclusivism were undeniable when he stated in an interview with his friend Robert Schuller,

“I think that everybody that loves or knows Christ, whether they are conscious of it or not, they are members of the body of Christ … [God] is calling people out of the world for his name, whether they come from the Muslim world, or the Buddhist world or the non-believing world, they are members of the Body of Christ because they have been called by God. They may not know the name of Jesus but they know in their hearts that they need something they do not have, and they turn to the only light they have, and I think that they are saved and they are going to be with us in heaven.” (Cited in Iain MurrayEvangelicalism Divided (2000), pp. 73–74)

A half-century has passed since those men waged war for the fundamental doctrines of the Christian faith.  Although in the latter years of their ministries when I sat under them, their passion had not abated. They were determined to pass on to the next generation not only a knowledge of the past, but a warning against compromise and cooperation with evangelicals.

I graduated Bob Jones University knowing collaboration with those who reject the fundamentals of the Christian faith or trifle with the doctrine of sanctification and personal holiness would eventually introduce a cancer that would destroy ministries, churches, Bible colleges, and mission boards.

Sadly, I have lived to witness the failures of venerable Bible-preaching churches, closures of Bible colleges, and compromises of Christian institutions led by men either ignorant of the lessons of the past or dismissive of the spiritual heritage of the fundamental institutions.

The result of leadership that either lacks spiritual discernment or is contemptuous of the past is the same: those fundamental Bible institutions either close their doors or become a shadow of what they were in their golden years.

Dr. Bob Jones, Sr., Evangelist and founder of Bob Jones University.

Whether in word or practice, when spiritual leaders compromise, distance themselves from, or deny the spiritual legacy of the institutions they lead, they inevitably forget God’s providences past, and, in the words of Dr. Bob Jones, Sr.,

“Sacrifice the permanent on the altar of the immediate.”

With the heart of a shepherd,

Travis D. Smith

Senior Pastor


* The majority of readers who follow “Heart of A Shepherd” do so for the daily devotionals. It is my joy to have hundreds across the globe who are part of my faith journey. In addition to devotionals, I periodically post articles that I pray will move my peers “on the frontlines” of fundamental Bible ministries to sincerely evaluate their course and convictions. Today’s article is such an appeal.

Copyright © 2020 – Travis D. Smith

Far-reaching Consequences of a Father’s Compromise (2 Chronicles 18)

Scripture reading – 2 Chronicles 18

While the focus of 1 Kings 22 was primarily upon King Ahab and the northern ten Tribes known as Israel, 2 Chronicles 18 was authored after the Babylonian captivity, and gives a greater focus to King Jehoshaphat and the kingdom of Judah (consisting of the two tribes in the south known as Judah and Benjamin).  The focus of this devotional commentary is 2 Chronicles 18.

As a nation, Judah enjoyed God’s blessings during the reign of Jehoshaphat, and the king “had riches and honour in abundance” (18:1). Unfortunately, Jehoshaphat had “joined affinity with Ahab,” king of Israel, and his son Jehoram had taken one of Ahab’s daughters as his wife (2 Chronicles 21:6). Three years passed (1 Kings 22:2), and Jehoshaphat traveled to visit Ahab in Samaria, the capital city of Israel. After a great banquet, Ahab proposed for Judah to support Israel in an attack on Ramoth-gilead, a Levite city of refuge that was occupied at that time by Syria (18:2).

Jehoshaphat was willing to go to war with Ahab and Israel, for they were family by marriage (18:3). Yet, Jehoshaphat, a spiritually-minded king, requested they seek “the word of the LORD” for his will (18:4). “The king of Israel gathered together of prophets four hundred men, and said unto them, Shall we go to Ramoth-gilead to battle, or shall I forbear?” (18:5). Ahab’s prophets, eager to please the king, answered his inquiry and said, “Go up; for God will deliver it into the king’s hand” (18:5).

Because the character of true prophets of the LORD is to speak independently without fear of consequences, Jehoshaphat, was concerned Ahab’s prophets spoke with one voice. Therefore, the king of Judah asked Ahab, “Is there not here a prophet of the Lord besides, that we might inquire of him?” (18:6). Ahab admitted there was another prophet, but confessed concerning the prophet Micaiah, “I hate him; for he never prophesied good unto me, but always evil” (18:7).

Micaiah, whom we met in a previous devotional (1 Kings 22), came to the kings of Israel and Judah, and delivered a message the king desired, but the prophet had not attributed his words to the LORD (18:12). When Ahab realized the prophet was not speaking prophetically, he instructed Micaiah saying, “How many times shall I adjure thee that thou say nothing but the truth to me in the name of the Lord?” (18:15).

The LORD’s prophet then spoke of his vision of a heavenly council gathered around the throne of God. In the vision, Israel was scattered, “as sheep that have no shepherd” (18:16). Because the king of Israel was identified as a shepherd of the people, the prophecy left no doubt that it was a foretelling of Ahab’s death.

Micaiah went on to describe how God had requested that a messenger would go to Ahab, and entice that king to go to battle at Ramoth-gilead where he would be slain (18:19). In the vision, a spirit went out from the LORD, and put “a lying spirit in the mouth of all [Ahab’s] prophets” (18:21).

The prophet then declared, “behold, the Lord hath put a lying spirit in the mouth of these thy prophets, and the Lord hath spoken evil against thee [Ahab]” (18:22). Exposed as a lying prophet, “Zedekiah the son of Chenaanah[a false prophet of Ajab] came near, and smote Micaiah upon the cheek” (18:23).

Ahab, hearing his death foretold, was angry and demanded the prophet be imprisoned with nothing more than bread and water, until he returned from battle (18:25-26). Emboldened and confident in his prophecy, Micaiah warned the king, “If thou certainly return in peace, then hath not the Lord spoken by me. And he said, Hearken, all ye people” (18:27).

In spite of the prophet’s warning, Jehoshaphat went to war with the king of Israel and went into battle against the king of Syria (18:28). Lest he be discovered to be the king of Israel, Ahab disguised himself that he might not be recognized, and targeted by the Syrian soldiers (18:29). Yet, in the providence of God, an arrow from a nameless soldier struck Ahab, mortally wounding him (18:33).

Elijah’s prophecy was fulfilled, for as the sun was setting that day, Ahab, the king of Israel, died (18:34), “and one washed the chariot in the pool of Samaria; and the dogs licked up his blood; and they washed his armour; according unto the word of the Lord which he spake” (1 Kings 21:19; 22:37-38).

Closing thoughts – Though the consequences of Jehoshaphat’s alliance with Israel were not immediately evident, his compromise with Ahab through the marriage of his son to Ahab’s daughter introduced a great wickedness in Judah, and nearly terminated David’s royal lineage (2 Chronicles 21:6; 22:3; 22:10-12).

An observation – When spiritual leaders accommodate the sins of their children, they sacrifice not only their testimonies, but also the ministries and institutions they lead.

Copyright © 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Warning: Dismiss the Prophet to Your Own Demise (1 Kings 22) – A bonus devotional.

Scripture reading – 1 Kings 21; 1 Kings 22

1 Kings 22 and 2 Chronicles 18 are parallel accounts of the same historical events. The focus of this bonus devotional is 1 Kings 22.

1 Kings 22 – The Tragic Death of King Ahab

1 Kings 21 concluded with Elijah prophesying that King Ahab and his wife Jezebel, would suffer alarming deaths for murdering Naboth for his vineyard (21:17-24). Hearing the prophesy of his death, Ahab humbled himself and God mercifully spared him for a season (21:27-29).

1 Kings 22 is the climax of King Ahab’s reign over Israel.  Three years had passed since Syria and Israel warred (22:1), and in the third year Jehoshaphat, the godly king of Judah, visited Ahab who enquired if Judah would be Israel’s ally and go to war against Syria (22:2-4).

You might wonder what motive Judah would have to be Israel’s ally.  That answer is revealed when we read, “Jehoshaphat said to the king of Israel, I am as thou art, my people as thy people” (22:4). You see, Jehoshaphat and Ahab had become family through the marriage of Jehoshaphat’s son with Ahab’s daughter (2 Kings 8:16-18).

Evidencing the judgment of a wise king, Jehoshaphat desired the LORD’s direction before going to battle and requested, “Enquire, I pray thee, at the word of the LORD to day” (22:5).

Ahab complied with Jehoshaphat’s request, and gathered nearly four hundred of his own prophets. Those prophets, no doubt in order to please the king, prophesied the LORD would give Israel and Judah victory over the king of Syria (22:6). Godly Jehoshaphat, however, was not satisfied and enquired further if there was not another prophet in Israel, one who had not compromised himself with Ahab’s prophets (22:7).

Ahab acknowledged there was another prophet whose name was “Micaiah the son of Imlah” (22: 8); however, the king of Israel confessed, “I hate him; for he doth not prophesy good concerning me, but evil” (22:8).

Complying with Jehoshaphat’s request, Ahab sent a servant to invite Micaiah to prophesy. That servant, however, warned the prophet how the other prophets were of “one mouth: [and demanded] let thy word, I pray thee, be like the word of one of them, and speak that which is good” (22:13).

In a twist of irony, Micaiah prophesied precisely what Ahab wanted to hear (22:15). The king, however, rebuked the prophet and demanded, “How many times shall I adjure thee that thou tell me nothing but that which is truein the name of the LORD?” (22:16).

Micaiah then prophesied how Ahab would die, and Israel would be “scattered upon the hills, as sheep that have not a shepherd” (22:17).  Acknowledging his own self-fulfilling sentiment, Ahab said to Jehoshaphat, king of Judah, “Did I not tell thee that he [the prophet Micaiah] would prophesy no good concerning me, but evil?” (22:18).

Micaiah’s prophesy proved true, and Ahab was mortally wounded in battle, and died in his chariot (22:34-35). The prophecy of Elijah was fulfilled, for in the place Naboth had been murdered, Ahab’s blood was washed from his chariot and “the dogs licked up his blood” (22:38; note 21:19).

Closing thought – Ahab was reluctant to invite Micaiah to prophesy, because he said, I hate him; for he doth not prophesy good concerning me, but evil(22:8).

I fear that has become the malady of the majority of ministries in our day. Pulpits of once thriving churches, Bible colleges, and institutional boards are filled by preachers soft-pedaling God’s Word. Like Ahab, who gathered four hundred prophets willing to lie and tell him what he wanted to hear, our churches and schools have few men like king Jehoshaphat who asked, “Is there not here a prophet of the LORD besides?” (22:7).

Warning: When an individual, church or institution dismisses the clarion call of God’s prophets, they do so to their own demise.

* This concludes the second of today’s devotionals. Please remember to subscribe to Pastor Smith’s daily chronological devotionals, and have them sent to your email address.

Copyright © 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Spiritual Integrity will Choose the LORD! (2 Chronicles 15; 2 Chronicles 16)

Scripture reading – 2 Chronicles 15; 2 Chronicles 16

Today’s Scripture reading continues a study of King Asa’s reign in Judah. Because the events in 2 Chronicles 16 were considered in our prior study of 1 Kings 15, the focus of this devotional will be 2 Chronicles 15.

The Prophet Azariah’s Exhortation to King Asa (15:1-7)

The “Spirit of God” moved Azariah, the Lord’s prophet, to meet the king, and challenged Asa with the conditions of God’s blessings. Azariah prophesied, “The Lord is with you, while ye be with him; and if ye seek him, he will be found of you; but if ye forsake him, he will forsake you” (15:2). Azariah continued, “3Now for a long season Israel hath been without the true God, and without a teaching priest, and without law5And in those times there was no peace to him that went out, nor to him that came in, but great vexations were upon all the inhabitants of the countries” (15:3, 5).

So it is for any nation, people, or man who rejects the LORD. “Without the true God,” and without a faithful preacher, “and without the law” (15:3), a society descends into lawlessness, and there is no peace! Yet, there is still hope if men will “turn unto the LORD,” and seek Him (15:4). However, should a nation continue to reject the LORD, it will surely be vexed, and troubled (15:6).

Azariah concluded his exhortation to king Asa, saying, “7Be ye strong therefore, and let not your hands be weak: for your work shall be rewarded” (15:7; note Deuteronomy 31:6-7; Joshua 1:6-7, 9; Ephesians 6:10).

King Asa’s Revival (15:8-15)

We have learned how Asa began his reign with a heart that was “good and right in the eyes of the LORD his God” (14:2). He had “commanded Judah to seek the LORD God of their fathers, and to do the law, and the commandment” (14:4).

Yet, as we come to today’s passage, the heart of Asa had waned in his commitment to the LORD. Fifteen years had passed since he became king (15:10), and like many who grow older and weary, he became less vigilant. The king and Judah had become tolerant of “abominable idols,” and the altar of the Temple had fallen into disrepair (15:8).

Who might have diminished Asa’s passion for the LORD? (15:16-19)

Sadly, I must suggest it was possibly the influence of his own family. Asa’s grandmother, Maachah the widow of Rehoboam, mother of Abijah, and the Queen Mother during Asa’s reign (15:16) would have had a prominent place and influence in the kingdom.

In his zeal to serve the LORD, Asa had to deal with his own household, and that was accomplished in this: “[King Asa] removed [Maachah] from being queen, because she had made an idol in a grove: and Asa cut down her idol, and stamped it, and burnt it at the brook Kidron” (15:16).

God rewarded Asa’s reform, and the people of Judah sought the LORD “with their whole desire” (15:15), “there was no more war unto the five and thirtieth year of the reign of Asa” (15:19).

Closing thoughts – Many believers face the spiritual challenge that confronted King Asa. He had tolerated the sins of his grandmother, and failed the LORD. In accommodating his grandmother’s wickedness, he was weakened and inevitably sin robbed him and Judah of God’s blessings.

One of the greatest challenges we face is that of addressing the sins of our loved ones. A rebellious son or daughter who has rejected his or her foundational training leads parents to a heartrending dilemma: Lovingly confront the sin and wrath of a rebel, or accommodate the sin and betray the LORD and His Word.

Caution – As it was with Asa, so it is with many spiritual leaders: When a leader permits sin to go unchallenged in his household, the influence of his compromise will rob him and his ministry of God’s blessings. Sadly, the testimony of that truth is seen in the steady decline, and failure of our churches, schools, and Christian colleges to heed God’s Word.

“Be ye strong therefore, and let not your hands be weak: for your work shall be rewarded.” (15:7)

Copyright © 2021 – Travis D. Smith

When the Wrath of God Falls Upon His Servants (1 Samuel 1-3)

Daily reading assignment: 1 Samuel 1-3

Our “Chronological Read-thru the Bible” schedule brings us to 1 Samuel.  The history, personalities, and principles found in 1 Samuel are too rich to summarize in brief devotional commentaries, but, that is my challenge.  Please do not rush your reading or overlook the treasure trove of spiritual truths found in 1 Samuel 1-3.

1 Samuel 1 – Several historic names come to the forefront in our introductory reading.

Elkanah (1:1), whose lineage was Levite through Kohath a son of Levi.  Elkanah had two wives (1:2): Peninnah, who had given him several sons and daughters, and his favored wife Hannah, who was barren (1:2-8).

Hannah was the object of abuse from Peninnah and she grieved her barrenness (1:7-8). Every year at the time of their pilgrimage to Shiloh where the Tabernacle was located, Hannah prayed with tears asking the LORD to give her a son, promising to dedicate him to the LORD and consecrate him as a Nazarite (1:9-11).

The LORD heard and answered Hannah’s prayers (1:19), and she gave birth to a son she named Samuel, meaning “heard of God” (1:20). I am sure there are mothers reading today’s scripture whose hearts resonate with Hannah’s when she prays:

1 Samuel 1:27-28 – “For this child I prayed; and the LORD hath given me my petition which I asked of him: 28  Therefore also I have lent him to the LORD; as long as he liveth he shall be lent to the LORD…”

1 Samuel 2 – From Joy to Tragedy

Hannah broke into a song of praise and thanksgiving (2:1-10) after dedicating Samuel to the LORD.  Scholars suggest he was three years old when she left him to serve in the Tabernacle at Shiloh, while she and Elkanah went home to Ramah.  There the LORD remembered Hannah’s sacrifice and honored her with “three sons and two daughters,” in addition to Samuel (2:21).

1 Samuel 2:12-17 takes on an ominous tone, and I wonder if Hannah did not struggle entrusting Samuel to Eli’s care. Eli, who was high priest and judge in Israel, had two sons serving as priests, Hophni and Phinehas. We read, they “were sons of Belial [lit. wickedness; worthless; ungodly]; they knew not the LORD” (2:12). Those sons were notoriously wicked and abused their priestly office, not only provoking the people who brought sacrifices (2:12-17), but inviting God’s judgment on their father and his lineage (2:22-36).

Old is No Excuse (2:22-36)

Don’t dismiss the mutual burden Eli shared with his sons and their wickedness as priests. Some might argue, “Eli was very old, and we should not be hard on the man” (2:22). Such was not the case in the LORD’S judgment.

Eli was aware of the sins committed by his sons (2:22-23) and his weak, emasculated rebuke of them was not only despicable, it was tragic (2:23-24). No wonder we read of his sons, they “hearkened not unto the voice of their father” (2:25). They had no fear of God and no respect for their father.

Here is a spiritual lesson leaders and board members of churches and institutions should heed before it is too late.

Eli compromised the priesthood by failing to rebuke and restrain his sons’ wickedness. Is that not the sin that is haunting ministries in our day? Might it be the spiritual decline of our churches, schools, and Bible colleges has its roots in the same failures we observe in Eli?

Warning: Spiritual leaders may be tempted to sacrifice the spiritual integrity of their institutions as an accommodation of their own children’s sins.

The LORD set Himself against Eli for his failure as a father and high priest.  He determined to slay Eli’s sons because Eli had honored his sons above the LORD (2:29). Eli was told his household would be disgraced (2:30) and his sons would die before they were old, and on the same day (2:32, 34).

1 Samuel 3“Speak, For Thy Servant Heareth” (3:10)

Never to leave His people in want, God was preparing Samuel to be His servant (2:26; 3:1a). Still in his youth, Samuel’s heart was tender, and when the LORD called him he was ready to hear and obey (3:1-10).

The first revelation to Samuel is distressing. God revealed His judgment on Eli and his sons would cause Israel to tremble (3:11).  Because he had known the wickedness committed by his sons in the priesthood and had failed to restrain them (3:12-13), Eli had been warned God’s judgment would not be satisfied until his lineage was cut off forever (3:14).

The next morning, Eli asked Samuel, “What is the thing that the LORD hath said unto thee?” (3:17) Samuel told him everything, and Eli resigned himself to God’s judgment, saying, “It is the LORD: let Him do what seemeth Him good” (3:18).

1 Samuel 3 concludes reminding us that God honors and rewards faithfulness to His Word (3:19-21).

1 Samuel 3:19 – “And Samuel grew, and the LORD was with him, and did let none of His words [words and instructions of the LORD] fall to the ground [perish or be despised].”

The LORD was once again present in Shiloh, “for the LORD revealed Himself to Samuel” (3:21).

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith